Sky C. Stanfield ’00 was recently honored with California Lawyer magazine’s Attorney of the Year (CLAY) Award in the environmental category for her court victory to help protect California’s desert from off-highway vehicle (OHV) impacts in Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, et al. Stanfield is an associate in Farella Braun + Martel’s environmental law department and is a member of the Land Use, Air Quality and Climate Change, and Regulatory/Compliance groups.
Reflecting upon her time as a William Smith student, Stanfield says “I was able to achieve a comfort level in many areas, which has made me into the attorney I am today. The whole goal of a Hobart and William Smith education is to provide a wide-range of experiences that result in individuals equipped to intelligently face professional challenges.”
She notes one of the greatest components of her education at William Smith was the interdisciplinary environmental studies program. “Being a successful environmental lawyer requires the ability to understand the scientific, economic and policy issues that surround each case. My education at William Smith prepared me to handle these issues and also gave me the confidence to compete in a career that continues to be dominated by men,” she explains.
Representing seven of the 11 plaintiff environmental organizations, Stanfield and Farella Braun + Martel partner David J. Lazerwitz (co-recipient of the CLAY award), were part of a pro bono legal team who demonstrated that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) designation of OHV routes in the Western Mojave region of the California Desert Conservation Area violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In the wide-reaching ruling, the Court held that BLM did not adhere to its own regulations, and instead allowed development of hundreds of illegal OHV routes during the past three decades without ensuring that they minimize impacts to important public land resources. The Court also held that OHV route designations developed since 1980 are in violation of the CDCA Plan, which limits route designations to those already in existence in 1980. As such, the BLM must modify the process used to designate OHV routes, must address the CDCA Plan limitation regarding routes established since 1980, and must adequately analyze the impacts of its decision pursuant to NEPA.
“I was raised in the Mojave Desert until I was 12 years old and have a deep respect for this spectacular but under-appreciated habitat,” said Stanfield. “It has been a pleasure to work with the seven environmental groups we represent; they are dedicated activists who work hard on the ground to secure incremental protections for the environment that surrounds them. We hope that our success on this case will remind the federal government of their obligation to protect the desert for future generations of humans and the various threatened plant and animal species that reside there, and not to prioritize the short-term interests of the ORV users who have the ability to cause a lifetimes’ worth of damage in one day’s play.”
Stanfield earned her B.A. in environmental studies, magna cum laude, from William Smith College and went on to receive her J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California in 2005.